COMMENT By Steve Ricketts, former chief rugby league writer, The Courier-Mail.
Australia’s schoolboy rugby league players have lost some of their aura in the professional age.
The academy system in England is producing talent ready for promotion to the Super League and these players are not intimidated by their Australian rivals, despite our incredible record of achievement since the first schoolboys’ tour, in 1972.
Back then, the Roy Masters’ coached outfit played rival English schoolboy sides, ill equipped for the speed and athleticism of the Australian lads, who had come through a much more advanced training culture.
Now our schoolboys play the young professionals of English Super League, so the Academy boys probably deserve favoritism.
Britain won the recent Test series 2-0, after the Australians had hard fought wins over Yorkshire and Lancashire, and a runaway win over English Colleges.
The Courier-Mail’s Paul Malone wrote a balanced article about the tour, giving credit to the English lads, rather than being too critical of an Australian side that many people expect will win, every time they take the field.
And wasn’t it good to see schoolboy league in the paper. All through winter, ‘The Courier-Mail’ bombarded us with the efforts of the GPS schools rugby union sides, with hardly a sentence about what was happening on the schools league front.
Hopefully the cashed up GPS schools were paying for the coverage, otherwise the paper could be excused of smacking of elitism.
To be fair, it was the Centenary of the GPS competition, although not the centenary of rugby union in those schools, because in the 1920s they played rugby league, after rugby union folded, at all levels, following World War 1. It is fascinating to see the photographs of the First 13 teams from that era, at Nudgee College, where our two lads, Damien and Lliam were students.
Both boys loved their time at Nudgee, and they keep in touch with their mates. But they rarely turn up for First XV matches at Ross Oval, where some old boys remain obsessed with the glory days, which, going by the press coverage this year, obviously transcend any experiences outside the GPS system.
Good to hear former test forwards, Trevor Gillmeister and Shane Webcke will continue to be a pair, giving their tips and opinions on Channel 7’s rugby league news coverage in 2019. ‘Gilly’ might have lost his position on the Queensland State of Origin coaching staff, but he has retained his spot in the national squad.
Photo: Australian Schoolboys prop, Paul Osborne tackles British rival, Darren Moulden in 1984.